Maui County Leaves Piiholo Residents At Risk – Only 20 of 112 Widow-Makers Removed

MAKAWAO, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) –Hundreds of eucalyptus trees in Makawao are dead or dying, and the community says they’re posing a safety threat.

The county is now removing some of them along Piiholo Road, but some wonder whether they’re moving fast enough.

Sam Small lives on Piiholo Road. For years, the blue gum eucalyptus have been dying, but in the past few months, many trees went from diseased to dead.

“There’s a whole canopy of trees that are dead. They’re not even dying or diseased. They are stone dead,” said Small.

Hundreds of them are reaching out over the road and residents say the county’s work to the remove them can’t come fast enough.

“There’s potential for loss of life because the trees could fall that way and hit someone,” said Small.

In April, a eucalyptus fell from private property onto a motorist. The driver was reportedly hospitalized, but escaped major injury.

A year ago, Donald DeCoite says he drove into a tree damaging his truck. His company, Land Prep LLC, is doing much of the tree removal for both the county and private landowners.

“My main concern is somebody is going to get killed. Probably my family because I’m grumbling about it,” said DeCoite.

The Maui Invasive Species Committee says old age, dry weather and two invasive bugs, the eucalyptus snout weevil and tortoise beetle are to blame for the trees’ demise. Trees in other Maui areas like Haleakala are seeing the same problem.

“So you see all over Maui trees specifically blue gum eucalyptus where the new growth doesn’t have any leaves on it,” said Lissa Strohecker of the Maui Invasive Species Committee.

The county started work removing 20 hazardous trees on Piiholo Road, but an estimated 112 trees will be removed in phases.

“We’re removing dead or dying trees in the county right of way and suggesting to private landowners that they do the same,” emailed Rod Antone, Maui County spokesman.

“That’s the catastrophic part about it and one wind storm will shut down this place for months,” said DeCoite.

One of the bigger landowners, Chris Baldwin of Piiholo Ranch, says his company is trying to work with the county to come up with a quick and cost-effective way to cut down the dead trees.

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